Monday, 3 May 2010

I Love You, Man

Lowdown: A heterosexual engagement is in danger when the guy falls for his new best friend.
I Love You, Man comes from reputable American comedy powerhouses. To name the two most noticeable examples, it’s directed by John Hamburg of Along Came Polly fame and it features Jason Segel whom I loved in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and who stars in How I Met Your Mother. Yet while watching the film I kept on wondering whether I was watching a comedy or a drama.
The story of I Love You, Man follows a Paul Rudd portraying a nice real estate agent (perhaps we should classify the film under fantasy?). He successfully proposes to his girlfriend for close to a year now, Rashida Jones, who raises an interesting issue: while she has many girl friends she does not know any real boy friends of his. Indeed, it turns out Rudd was always a girlfriend’s guy that never bothered developing deep male to male relationships, not even with his family. With the need to come up with a best man sooner rather than later, and in an attempt to nullify his fiancĂ©’s fear of him ending up too dependent on her, Rudd sets out to find some best male friends.
As you can expect, forcing his way into the issue does not get him too far (but supplies the film with some cheap laughs). He does strike gold, however, when he meets Jason Segel at an open house inspection and they both seem to click: they are very similar, with their shared love of the band Rush the most notable aspect there; but they’re also opposites, with Segel having lots of friends but also being the totally independent male that won’t let anyone tell him what to do and, as a direct result, is the eternal bachelor.
Slowly but surely, Rudd and Segel grow closer and closer. Their relationship never gets sexual (at least not explicitly so), but it does begin to overshadow Rudd’s relationship with Jones. Will a middle ground be found?
I have found I Love You, Man to be an interesting film for several reasons. Being funny, by the way, is not amongst these reasons; humor is rare here and what you do get is stuff that would make you cringe uncomfortably. Still, you got to give a film discussing taboo matters such as male to male friendship a lot of credit: with most males I know being self declared homophobes, yet having no problems doing pretty intimate stuff together and even being proud of it (check out them goal scoring celebrations), it’s pretty fresh to see a full frontal attack on people’s perceptions. Yet I Love You, Man does not stop there: it goes on delving into other related topics that for some reason or another are off our discussion boards and it asks – why are they off? Note it doesn’t urge us to discuss them, it just asks us to openly recognize they’re off the board. I consider that a great service.
My next intersection of interest with I Love You, Man is to do with it hitting a sensitive nerve. Just like Rudd’s character, I am a person unable to claim to have a best male friend. Sure, I have several, but they’re all in Israel, half a world away; sure, I know some Aussie mates, but – like it or not – the depth of our friendship does not match the heights you get to with childhood friends. Besides, by now we’re all family man and we lack the time to mess about doing male stuff together. My days when a friend could just knock on my door uninvited and we’ll have ourselves a good time together (probably playing video games) are all gone.
That sense of identification with Rudd has made me realize something: that best friend gap in my life has been fulfilled through the internet. Sure, there are many disadvantages to having virtual social interactions; but in a world where no one has the time to be social anymore, in my world, the internet makes a huge difference.
Best scene: Segel and Rudd’s first encounter, which really leaves Rudd’s character impressed by Segel’s ability to analyze a guy’s movements as a precursor for the upcoming production of a fart. I have to say I was impressed with the detailed, accurate and lifelike analysis myself, but the point of me pointing this scene out is that it’s a precursor for I Love You, Man raising other issues that the [male] taboo list has removed off the discussion board. Most notably: masturbation.
Technical assessment: As average a Blu-ray as one can come up with. I guess this film never had the system demo material stuff in it.
Overall: Not the funniest drama ever but it scores points for touching the normally untouchable and for hitting a personal nerve. Quite a lot for a mainstream American release at 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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